In 2005 I wrote a column, “I Want My Gay TV,” about the state of LGBTQ television, with emphasis on two then-new program services: the cable network Logo and the pay-per-view service Here TV. As I wrote back then, ”before Logo and Here TV came along, People of the Rainbow had to make do with programs on mainstream networks. With Logo and Here TV, those of us who want our gay TV can have it 24/7.”
Thirteen years later, have things improved? Not so much. In spite of “Will and Grace,” network programs primarily about LGBTQ people remain few and far between in the Age of Trump. On the other hand, many serial dramas and comedies, on both major and cable networks, feature at least one LGBTQ character. One of queer TV’s current triumphs is out comedian Kate McKinnon, formerly of Logo’s “Big Gay Sketch Show,” who now shines as one of the stars of NBC’s “Saturday Night Live.” Two of the best LGBTQ-inclusive series, both on the FX channel, are produced by Ryan Murphy, the openly-gay creator of “Glee.” “The Assassination of Gianni Versace,” the second season of Murphy’s “American Crime Story,” dealt with the events leading to the famed designer’s death (1997), as lived by Versace’s killer, Andrew Cunanan. “Pose,” set in 1987, is about the Black and Latinx, gay and transgender people involved in New York’s ball culture, a world that inspired Madonna’s hit “Vogue.” In the case of “Pose,” Murphy and his associates made history and won awards by employing openly transgender people of color to work as both cast and crew.
Meanwhile, the premium television network Here TV (heretv.com) continues to serve our community well by showcasing LGBTQ films and series in their original, uncensored form. Here TV has the largest LGBTQ library anywhere, or at least on television, with films like “Shelter,” “Little Ashes,” “Free Fall” and “The Falls” along with series like “This Gay House” and the perennial favorite “Dante’s Cove.” Though a subscription to Here TV is still available through most cable providers, you can also watch the network on any device with the Here TV app.
While Here TV continues to flourish, Logo (logotv.com) has experienced a sad decline. Launched in 2005 as an all-LGBTQ network, in 2012 Logo shifted its focus toward what it described as general cultural and lifestyle programming. Logo suffered a most severe loss last year when its flagship show, “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” moved to the more popular network VH1. Today Logo’s programming is mostly limited to reruns of gay-friendly comedies like “The Facts of Life” or “The Golden Girls.”
An exception to this sorry state of affairs is Logo’s series of LGBTQ documentary films, which tell the stories of queer individuals or groups who overcome incredible odds. Previous Logo documentaries dealt with the plight of LGBTQ immigrants and the life of celebrity makeup artist, the late Kevyn Aucoin. More recently, Logo has given us “Light in the Water,” about the West Hollywood Aquatics swim team, and “When the Beat Drops,” Jamal Sims’s study of J-Setting and Atlanta’s bucking scene. Both of these documentaries would not be shown anywhere else on television (except, perhaps, on PBS) and almost (but not quite) make me forgive Logo for wasting its time with reruns of “Laverne & Shirley” and “Bewitched.” The future of LGBTQ TV, as with television in general, is with Netflix (“Queer Eye”) and other over-the-top media services.